Hyundai’s next badge booster
HYUNDAI will launch a new turbocharged version of the Elantra small sedan in the second half of the year as a forerunner to the launch of a new performance sub-brand in the next two years.
The 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo will put out 150kW and wear an SR badge.
The model is expected to come in below $35,000 as a sixspeed manual, with a sevenspeed dual-clutch transmission adding roughly $2500.
The engine and transmission combinations mirror those in the Veloster coupe. The new model will also have unique sports suspension and steering with input from local engineers.
A sports button will allow the driver to sharpen throttle response, steering and gear changes. The SR will also be fitted with a body kit, while inside there will be leather seats with coloured stitching and a sports steering wheel.
Hyundai expects the model to account for roughly 15 per cent of Elantra sales, or about 100 cars a month.
The Elantra’s hatchback sibling, the i30, will not be fitted with the engine until its next model update, due next year.
Hyundai boss Scott Grant is keen to inject some excitement into the brand in Australia and says the SR Elantra is an option that carries very little risk.
“We felt it could add some sizzle to the category and potentially move the category. We know that the segment is in decline so part of the opportunity with a new product is to change that,” he says.
Globally, the brand is assembling a team of engineers to fettle hardcore sports versions of Hyundais under the leadership of Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW’s famed M performance division.
Biermann was hired at the end of 2014 to develop a performance arm for Hyundai and sister company Kia.
Hyundai is also developing the Genesis luxury sub-brand in a bid to break into the prestige market, initially in the United States and Korea. The brand is expected to show the first of a new range of luxury models at the New York motor show next month.
Grant says the Genesis project is still in its infancy in Australia. The local operation has yet to decide whether to house the brand within existing dealerships, or set up a separate distribution network.
The former Toyota executive is well equipped to work on both performance and luxury offshoots, having worked with Holden Special Vehicles and Lexus in the past.
It is likely that Australia will have to wait for both performance and luxury models, as the US will take priority over right-hand drive markets such as Australia.
Hyundai also has no immediate prospects of filling two gaping holes in its local line-up.
Grant says little progress has been made in persuading the Korean head office to build a work ute to compete with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, both top 10 sellers in Australia.
It’s a similar situation with plans for an SUV to take on the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V in the booming baby SUV segment.